George Seurat’s 1880 painting “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of LaGrande Jatte”, 2006 recreation in situ

People gather on Beloit’s riverfront for a recreation of Georges Seurat’s painting “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”

Art is alive along river

Monday, July 3, 2006
Painting scene recreated in Beloit
By Ann Montgomery
Daily News staff writer

George Seurat had a “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of LaGrande Jatte,” and Beloit now has “Saturday in the Park with Friends.” 

Beloiters brought to life the famous painting by the French artist Saturday afternoon in an effort to promote an August event planned by Friends of Riverfront. And while people were positioned similarly along the Rock River, Beloit’s version of Seurat’s work had its own flair.

There was a wooden turtle silhouette instead of a monkey, a woman jogging in the background instead of a girl running, and a state Senator dressed in red, white and blue standing near the river instead of a women dressed in period clothing.

But a few similarities remained. There were boats along the river, including a sailboat, plenty of hats and umbrellas, and yes, even a few well-behaved dogs.

And the final product, whether a painting from the 1800s or a pictures in 2006, shows people of all ages enjoying a day along a river.

“I’m glad to be part of it,” LaVaughn Kunny of Beloit said after taking her turn being in the photo. “I’ve seen the original at the Arts Institute in Chicago.”

The idea for duplicating the painting stemmed from Jeff Adams, an active members of Friends of Riverfront who was thinking of ways to promote a new event, Saturday in the Park with Friends. The event will replace the popular Turtles in the Park, and will invite the public to Riverside Park in August for a variety of events.

While thinking about what he envisioned for the event, Adams thought of Seurat’s painting, which shows men, women and children enjoying a day along a river. He soon wondered out loud if the painting could be duplicated, with a Beloit twist, along the Rock River.

On Saturday, a group of volunteers did a pretty good interpretation of the painting.

The event began earlier in the week when Friends Executive Director Becky Moffett and local photographer Mark Preuschl picked a spot along the Rock River that looked similar to the scene in Seurat’s painting. They then mapped out where each person would sit or stand.

As people began arriving at the site on Saturday, they where were sized up and assigned a place in the scene. On the river, a couple came paddling in on a canoe, while Dr. Pierre Charles showed up with his sailboat. After a few dogs were placed in the scene, the photographers were ready.

“You’re facing the river unless told otherwise,” Moffett bellowed through a bullhorn as those in the scene prepared for their moment.

And then, the pictures began. Umbrellas open, hats straight, dogs standing, then sitting. Everyone who wanted to be part of the photo got their chance.

When it was over, organizers expressed gratitude to those who were part of the picture, and told them to look for themselves in the photo as they begin to promote Saturday in the Park with Friends.

Beloiter Jeff Johnson said he was surprised with how organized Saturday’s event was, and is anxious to see what the photo looks like.

“I didn’t know how many people they’d have, but they had a good turn out. It was fun,” Johnson said, adding he heard about the need for volunteers for the photo while attending a recent Dancing at Harry’s Place.

Kunny, a regular at Friends of Riverfront events, said she enjoyed being part of the interpretation of Seurat’s painting.

“I’m always interested in things happening in Beloit. I’m glad to be part of it,” she said with a smile.